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(All photos courtesy Wendy Elrod)

Badger Girls Lose Heartbreaker in Semi-Finals

By Gregg Dodderidge

OAKHURST — The Badger Varsity Girls Basketball Program suffered a rare home loss last Wednesday in Oakhurst.

YHS, playing as the #2 seed in the CIF Central Section Girls Division II Semi-Finals, hosted the #6 Seeded Mission Prep Lady Royals of San Luis Obispo at the Badger Gym. A win would propel the Lady Badgers into their second straight section final game at Selland Arena. It was not meant to be as the Lady Royals used a stifling defense to defeat YHS 45-43.

Forward Jenna Kurz driving to the basket against Mission Oak. Kurz led all scorers with 22 points

The win avenged an earlier 48-44 loss to Yosemite back on Nov. 23 in San Luis Obispo.

For YHS head coach Gary Blate, it was a tough defeat. “We just couldn’t put it together,” Blate said. “It was definitely a physical game. We had to make adjustments without our starting point guard Britney Allen. That is never easy. They had a good game plan. We had our opportunities but defensively, they packed the inside. We just didn’t get it done.”

Despite the loss, it was another very successful season for Yosemite. The Badgers end their season at 22- 9 overall. YHS shared the North Sequoia League title with Washington Union and Kerman.

Blate continues his incredible run at Yosemite High. Blate has now won or shared 17 of the last 19 NSL titles. The Badgers have averaged 25 wins each season for the last three years. Blate has also won 4 CIF Section Titles.

Blate has done all this with less. YHS has steadily had a declining student body population. YHS has the lowest student population of any school in Division II.

This was not a pretty contest. It was a defensive struggle. That meant a lot of physical play. Both teams fought on both ends of the court. YHS was without starting point guard Britney Allen. Allen, a junior, is second in the Central Section in assists with 5.2 per game. Her leadership and experience were missed.

Senior forward Keylee Andersen connecting on a 3-point shot with .19 left in the fourth quarter to bring YHS within one. It was Andersen’s last game as Badger. She had 9 points.

Still, the Badgers were in this all the way. Emma Graffigna took over the point for Allen and did a good job directing traffic. The Lady Royals wanted to take out the Badger’s star center Courtney Hart and they did just that. Hart, who normally averages 18+ points per game was limited to just a season-low 5 points on 2 of 16 shooting.

YHS’s leading scorer all season has been junior forward Jenna Kurz. Kurz did her part by scoring 22 points. Nothing came easy for Kurz who had to work hard for every shot.

Senior forward Keylee Andersen had 9 points including a key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that almost pulled it out for YHS.

Overall, YHS had a poor shooting night. YHS was just 16 of 55 or 29 percent. The Badgers were only 3 of 15 from beyond the arc. You knew it would be ugly early. It was close all the way. No team led by more than 5 points. Both teams shut each other down with very physical play. Combined, both teams scored just 13 points in the first quarter with Mission Oak leading 7-6.

YHS went on a 7-0 run early in the second quarter with Andersen scoring and rebounding on both ends of the floor. YHS held a 15-10 lead late in the second. Mission Oak closed the gap and YHS led 17-14 at halftime.

(Left to right) Laura Bernardi #15, Isabella Brown, and Courtney Hart battle for a rebound against Mission Oak

Andersen had 6 points and Kurz 5 to lead YHS. The Badgers missed easy opportunities in the third quarter and committed crucial turnovers. Momentum started to shift. The Royals took a 25-21 lead but couldn’t pull away.

Kurz tied the game with a 3-pointer and got the home crowd back in the game.

Mission Oak led 28-26 going into the fourth quarter. From there it was Lady Royal senior point guard Kyra Harris who took over. After a somewhat quiet first three quarters the senior point showed her leadership at the end.

For a while, it looked good for the Badgers. Kurz led YHS with a three-pointer and a lay-up and the Badgers held a 35-30 lead with 3:53 left.

The Badger Faithful were fully engaged.

From there it was Mission Oak and Harris. Mission Oak would outscore YHS 15-8 the rest of the way. Harris scored the next 8 points for Mission Oak either on the floor or from the foul line. Harris connected on 10-13 free throws.

With 1:29 left the Lady Royals held a 42-38 lead. Keylee Andersen wasn’t done though. Andersen connected on a 3-pointer with .41 seconds left to pull YHS within one.

After a rare Harris miss from the charity stripe, YHS had the ball with .13 seconds left. A poor inbound pass doomed the comeback and the Lady Royals escaped with a hard-fought 45-43 win.

Kurz led all scorers with 22 points. Kurz, Hart and Isabella Brown led YHS with 7 rebounds.

Graffigna didn’t score but limited her turnovers to just 5 in her first start. Graffigna led YHS with 3 assists and 4 steals.

Forward Lauren Bernardi had 5 points and 5 rebounds in a strong performance off the bench.

Kyra Harris led Mission Oak with 16 points. Emily Horzen had 11 and Emma Boehm added 8 to lead Mission Oak. The Lady Royals play for the D-II title against the #1 seeded San Joaquin Memorial.

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